There is nothing necessarily wrong with being fiscally conservative. There is something wrong with cutting costs wildly. Some people seem to have no idea of the distinction between “spending” and “investing”.
It was mentioned on here that people ought to learn a valuable trade, and thus make themselves valuable to society overall. How do you learn a valuable trade? By investing time and money into it. It is extremely difficult to learn a trade without investing into it; if you instead cut back on the time and money that you spend to learn the trade, then you gain nothing. You’ll probably end up worse off than you were to begin with, even.
The same goes for much else that costs money. Want to have a healthy, productive, well-trained workforce in the future? You have to invest in such things as schools and health care today. Most every specific thing that the congressman complained about is that sort of thing. The school lunches? They are an investment in the very basic fabric of what the country will be made of in another decade or two. The RiverStone Health system? Part of the AHEC system that not only serves to train new doctors and medical professionals, not only provides medical services for people who live in areas where health care is hard to get to (I suppose that those people would be considered “undeserving” because their jobs take them to places where other hospitals aren’t near?), but also helps to educate the public so that they can better take care of themselves. The paying to move the elderly from nursing homes to family-owned homes where they get individual care? That’s to save an even greater amount of money (over $1.5 billion was spent by Medicaid in Montana alone on people in nursing homes, and that’s just one of many public funds paying for that). Cutting funding to each of those things might reduce (or at least appear to reduce) spending in the short term. . .but would hurt in the long term.
There are plenty of places in government spending where cutting costs is a terrific idea; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if cutting out a good quarter of the bureaucracy would not only result in a bundle of savings, but would also improve government functionality markedly. However, unthinkingly declaring that a cost should be cut simply because at this particular moment it is a cost is a certain recipe for failure.
It’s also extremely unrealistic to declare that everybody who ends up making use of some social welfare system is somehow undeserving and failed and didn’t try hard enough. Real life is not some family-friendly inspirational movie. You can try your very hardest, do all the right things, make nothing but smart decisions. . .and still not end up with all that you need for basic survival in society. Even for those who do manage to come out on top, all it takes sometimes is one wrong decision, or even one unfortunate happenstance that you have absolutely no control over, and suddenly you find yourself in a hole with no realistic way of getting out of it on your own. On the other hand, somebody who is born into a well-to-do family can simply coast through life and yet still manage to afford all that he needs. How is the former person an undeserving failure, while the latter is an admirable success? Should we all just turn our backs on the person who has suffered bad luck?
Some people apparently say that yes, we should. Those people are entitled to their opinions. As are the much larger majority of people who disagree and say that we have a social responsibility. Seeing as how we live in a society, social responsibility is one of those things that is rather important. While personal responsibility is also important and should certainly be encouraged, it is not some all-answering mantra. Some things that happen in society are beyond the scope of the individual person. That’s the whole point of living in a society, after all: working together as a whole, supporting each other, we are stronger than the sum of our individual parts. Living as part of a society gives us lots of benefits: reliable food, a health care system, life-improving technology, free time for entertainment and diversions, education, and so on. But for those who always cry about personal responsibility: in what way is it responsible to take freely of all of those social benefits, while at the same time ignoring social responsibility? Even if you can simply shrug off the moral aspects of social welfare, most social welfare programs are (as was mentioned) actually an investment in the future. Social responsibility is what helps to ensure that we still have a society fifty years from now.
There are those who would trivialise what these social welfare programs do. They’ll paint a picture of oafish layabouts who take free handouts just to buy luxuries such as X-Boxes, or claim that these programs are pandering to every little need and whim of their clients. Look again at the list of programs that the congressman discusses. Medical care; medicine and surgery is now a trivial need? Meals for children; food is now a luxury? Not having your children die; that’s just a casual whim? Job placement programs; those should be discouraged because they encourage layabouts? No, these are not all simply worthless and shallow trifles. If they are, then surely those who can afford such things would have no problem with giving them up, right? After all, costs must be cut, right? Think of how much money we could put toward paying off the national debt if we all only fed all of our children a couple of packs of ramen noodles a day! Is that a stupid and ridiculous notion? Of course it is. How, then, does changing it from “all of our children” to “a quarter of our children” suddenly make it a good idea?